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Who’s at Risk for Diabetes? 4 Key Things to Know

About 30.3 million Americans have diabetes. That’s more than five times the population of Wisconsin. And more people than the total populations of Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota combined.  

Chances are diabetes affects you in some way whether it’s a friend, family member or you personally.

You’re at risk if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 or older
  • Have a close family member with diabetes
  • Are sedentary most of the time
  • Have had gestational diabetes
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans also have a higher risk)


What Is Diabetes?

With diabetes, a person’s blood glucose (also known as blood sugar levels) are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat and provides your cells with energy.

Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose get into your cells. With diabetes, insulin levels fall outside the correct levels for the body. As a result, blood glucose levels in the body get too high.


What’s Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes. With this form of the disease, the body doesn’t make insulin. As a result, blood glucose levels get too high.

Over time, excessive blood glucose can lead to serious problems with the nerves, eyes, gums, teeth, kidneys and/or heart problems.

Only five percent of people with diabetes have type 1. It’s usually diagnosed in children and juvenile diabetes.

Controlling type 1 diabetes involves management of blood glucose and insulin. Medication may be prescribed to help with this. Controlling the disease also includes exercise, nutrition and support from professionals and family.


What’s Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the more common form of the disease. With this type of the disease, the body doesn’t use its insulin efficiently. The pancreas works to make extra insulin to compensate for the inefficiency, but it’s unable to keep up with the body’s needs. Since the body isn’t using insulin effectively, the blood glucose levels go up.

As with Type 1, the extra blood glucose of type 2 diabetes can lead to serious problems with the nerves, eyes, gums, teeth, kidneys and/or heart problems.

Several factors can increase a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes. Ask your health care professional about your risks. Onset of the disease can be prevented or delayed.

  • Lose weight and keep it off.
  • Eat healthfully. This includes smaller portions and less fat and sugar.
  • Exercise regularly. Try to get 30 minutes of activity five days a week.
  • Don’t smoke.

    Your health care professional can offer guidance on weight loss, diet, exercise and strategies for quitting smoking.


What’s Gestational Diabetes?

Another type of diabetes happens during pregnancy — usually around the 24th week. It appears to occur in about nine percent of pregnancies. It usually goes away after the birth, but having gestational diabetes may increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes later on.

Gestational diabetes begins when the mother’s body is no longer able to make and use all the insulin it needs during pregnancy.

The trigger for gestational diabetes may be related to the placenta, which supports the baby as it grows. The placenta makes hormones for the baby. But these hormones may also block the action of the mother’s insulin. Because gestational diabetes affects both baby and mother, professional guidance in treatment of the condition is important for a healthy baby and mother.


Support for Diabetics

Ask your health care provider about managing your diabetes. Diabetes support groups are also available in many areas.

Meet the Author

Theresa Glasgow, RD, is a Registered Dietitian and the Manager of Nutrition Services at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Milwaukee, WI

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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